Minor Car Accident Claims: How to Handle a Fender Bender
If you have never had even a minor car accident, then you have either been extremely lucky or you live in an area with few vehicles. Some estimates say that the average driver will be involved in a car accident once every 18 years or so, which means you may have 3-4 accidents over the course of your lifetime.
With a total average of some 6 million accidents per year in the U.S., many of these are categorized as non-serious. But even these less serious accidents can result in damage to your vehicle as well as possible injuries, so how should you deal with them?
Causes of Auto Accidents
Most of these accidents happen when both, or more vehicles are traveling at relatively low speeds. Some of the most common causes include:
- Drivers pulling out from side roads, driveways, parking spaces, etc.
- Poor weather conditions such as rain or snow making the road slippery
- Distractions such as using a mobile phone, children in the car, or looking at something to the side of the road.
- Being rear-ended in heavy or slow-moving traffic
Safety First Every Time
Your first action after a minor collision is to ensure your vehicle does not present a hazard to other road users. Where possible, move your car to the side of the road or even into a parking lot if one is there. If your vehicle is still in a traffic lane, put on your hazard lights.
Most states require by law that when any accident happens, you call the police to report the accident. No matter how minor your collision may seem to you initially, there can be circumstances where an injury may not manifest till later.
By involving the police at the earliest possible stage, you are ensuring there is an official record of the incident. If any action needs to be taken later, a police report is always helpful, even if just for your insurance claim.
If there are any injuries that require medical attention, you can also request an ambulance when you call 911.
No matter if you feel the accident was another driver’s fault, no matter if you are angry and frustrated as you have somewhere to be, always stay calm in any exchange with other drivers.
Your first priority is to check to see whether you or any passengers have been injured. When medical staff attend the accident scene, always allow them to examine you. Not all injuries are immediately obvious and even a slight bump to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury.
Perhaps the most common claim car insurance companies see is whiplash. Whiplash can be relatively minor or can have long lasting effects. If you do not seek immediate medical attention, then it may have a negative effect when you do file a claim.
Collect All Necessary Information
Once you have made sure that no one requires medical attention – or you have ensured that any injured parties are receiving medical help – then you can start collecting information to support any claim made later.
Remember that Michigan is a no fault state in regards to car accidents, so the law assumes 50-50 sharing of fault unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. The following lists the information you should collect:
- Contact information of other drivers and any witnesses, including phone numbers.
- The insurance information of any drivers involved in the collision.
- Photographic and video evidence if available (for example, from a dashcam). Take photographs of any damage to your car, the license plate numbers of all vehicles involved, any road conditions or obstructions that may have contributed to the accident, any property damage that has occurred, and any other factors you feel may have been involved.
- Police report. While you will not be able to get a copy of the report immediately (it usually takes a week or two to obtain), you can make sure you have a note of the names of any officers in attendance. Police reports can play a major part in any auto insurance claim.
What’s In the Police Report
A police report contains many of the factors you yourself have recorded, but they will also include their opinion – or judgment – as to what caused the collision. Once you get a copy of the report, check it for any factual inaccuracies such as wrong addresses, times, etc. You can ask for these to be changed but you cannot change their opinion.
Minor car accidents can be more annoying than anything else. But there are occasions when even a small accident can cause damage to your car and injuries to you or any passengers. In the vast majority of cases, there will be no need for you to hire a lawyer as it will be dealt with by the respective insurance companies. But occasionally things can get complicated and then you may want to consider engaging an attorney.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have dealt with all levels of car accidents, from minor fender benders to major highway pile-ups. If you do find your minor accident has escalated in seriousness and you need legal advice, you can schedule a free case evaluation with us at (866)-466-9912. Our law firm never charges a fee unless we win your case.